Charles the per­fect gen­tle­man says his farewells

One of York­shire’s finest gen­tle­man es­tate agents has re­tired. to Charles Yeo­man about his ca­reer and the past and fu­ture of his pro­fes­sion.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Sharon Dale chats

ES­TATE agents have an un­for­tu­nate rep­u­ta­tion and fea­ture high on the list of most hated pro­fes­sion­als, but there are many ex­cep­tions to this sweep­ing gen­er­al­i­sa­tion.

Charles Yeo­man is an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of one. He is the per­fect gen­tle­man, with the sort of im­pec­ca­ble man­ners you rarely en­counter in a world that has em­braced in­for­mal­ity.

Dressed in tweeds with a spot­ted hanky in his top pocket and a twin­kle in his eye, he is old school – Sed­bergh in fact – but with­out a hint of stuffi­ness and this, to­gether with a great sense of hu­mour, has made him one of the best-loved agents in North York­shire.

In fact, he’s so nice, he makes for a dif­fi­cult in­ter­view. Anec­dotes are tricky be­cause he doesn’t want to be­tray con­fi­dences and he doesn’t want to of­fend any­one with opin­ions that are too strong.

What he will say is that there has been an un­healthy ob­ses­sion with en-suite bath­rooms of late, which he be­lieves may be wan­ing “thank good­ness”.

“One or two en-suite bath­rooms is fine but not ev­ery bed­room needs one. It’s more to clean and you can de­stroy the char­ac­ter of a lovely big bed­room by squeez­ing a shower room the size of a tele­phone box in the corner,” he says.

He also dis­misses the House Doc­tor ad­vice to “neu­tralise” your house if you want to sell it.

“I’ve al­ways said the op­po­site. A house has to be homely. Leave the fam­ily pic­tures and the Sun­day pa­pers on the chair, though make sure the front door and win­dows don’t look shabby.”

He also ad­vises not to of­fer prospec­tive buy­ers tea, cof­fee or sherry.

“There’s no need. Peo­ple make their mind up about a house within about 30 sec­onds and the ones who stay long­est or who come back for sec­ond and third view­ings are the least likely to buy.”

His own home is near Masham, where he lives with his wife, dogs and chick­ens. It is a haven for what he calls his ex­tro­vert/ in­tro­vert na­ture.

“I think a lot of es­tate agents are like that. The job re­quires them to be gre­gar­i­ous, but come the week­end they want to pull up the draw­bridge and live like a her­mit,” says Charles, 61, who has three chil­dren.

He spent much of his child­hood in Kirkby Overblow, Har­ro­gate, be­fore his fa­ther, a sur­geon, moved the fam­ily to Bath. Af­ter at­tend­ing the Royal Agri­cul­tural Col­lege in Cirences­ter, he qual­i­fied as a char­tered sur­veyor and be­came a land agent man­ag­ing es­tates in Bath, Corn­wall and London. He came back to York­shire in the early 1980’s.

“It’s a won­der­ful place and most peo­ple who move up here don’t want to leave,” he says.

When land agency be­came more desk-bound, he trans­ferred into es­tate agency with Knight Frank, be­fore mov­ing to Strutt and Parker in Har­ro­gate, where he worked for al­most 20 years be­com­ing a part­ner and head of res­i­den­tial sales.

Some of his hap­pi­est times were spent with his friend and col­league, the late James Gloag. They were an ex­cel­lent dou­ble act, charm­ing prospec­tive clients and win­ning busi­ness. But the pace and de­mands in­creased and busi­ness lunches were re­placed with sausage rolls scoffed at the wheel of the car – he still has a jar of mus­tard and a pep­per mill in the glove com­part­ment.

“Es­tate agency has changed. Eight years ago I had a dis­cus­sion with col­leagues and we de­cided the in­ter­net wouldn’t change the way we did busi­ness. But it has and, strangely, it means we now have to ring peo­ple even more to per­suade them to view a house. They think they’ve seen it if they’ve looked at pic­tures on the in­ter­net and they haven’t. It’s a chal­lenge to per­suade them to go and look.”

Sell­ing is an even big­ger chal­lenge now, but Charles is adamant that buy­ing your own home is the best in­vest­ment you can make if you take a long-term view.

“The best thing you can in­vest in is your own house,” he says. “Keep mov­ing up the lad­der, you can down­size when you re­tire and the money you make is tax-free.

“I can’t un­der­stand this ob­ses­sion that young peo­ple have with be­ing mort­gage-free. Ob­vi­ously don’t over stretch but keep go­ing up for as long as you are able.”

He also sug­gests that now is the time to make your home more en­ergy-ef­fi­cient with in­su­la­tion, heat pumps and so­lar pan­els, as buy­ers are in­creas­ingly look­ing at the run­ning costs of a prop­erty.

While re­tain­ing a con­sul­tancy role for Strutt and Parker, Charles in­tends to en­joy re­tire­ment by work­ing in his kitchen gar­den, sail­ing his boat in Corn­wall and watch­ing old black and white movies while sip­ping a G&T. Those films de­pict a time when gentle­men looked and acted the part and you can see why he iden­ti­fies with the era.

“You couldn’t get more of a gen­tle­man than Charles,” says a fel­low agent and he’s right. Like those old movies, they don’t make them like that any­more.

LOOK­ING THE PART: Well-known es­tate agent Charles Yeo­man has re­tired from Strutt and Parker, Har­ro­gate, af­ter al­most 20 years.

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